Social Enterprise and Philanthropy in Amsterdam

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Despite being one of the wealthiest countries and giving at some of the highest levels in Europe, compared to American standards, Amsterdam philanthropists gave very little and seemed less involved in philanthropy as a third sector.


The tradition of giving in Amsterdam is significantly different given the nature of a social welfare state and the idea that many of the basic needs are provided for by the government and higher taxes.  Accordingly, individuals have smaller percentages of discretionary funds available and don’t view themselves as ‘philanthropists’ like we do in America.


The barrier to enter as a ‘philanthropist’ was deemed too high for many and so it was lowered to be more inclusive.  Membership criteria were opened by lowering the buy-in and by hosting meetings less frequently.  Moreover, the function of The Giving Circle was redesigned with the primary purpose no longer emphasizing the largest gift possible, but creating a reflective, supportive, and educational space for members to explore their giving and the sector as a whole with speakers, readings, and peer learning based discussions driving many meetings.


The Giving Circle has flourished and many members report anecdotally about how they have approached giving in their other ventures in a more thoughtful and intentional manner.  The Giving Circle is also expanding into Ireland where they expect a larger membership.